To mark the 300th anniversary of the passing of the Longitude Act in July 1714, this landmark exhibition Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude tells the extraordinary story of the race to determine longitude (east-west position) at sea, helping to solve the problem of navigation and saving seafarers from terrible fates including shipwreck and starvation.
11 July – 4 January 2015
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich London
The exhibition draws on the latest research to shed new light on the history of longitude – one of the great achievements of the Georgian age – and how it changed our understanding of the world.
Passed by the British government in July 1714, the Longitude Act aimed to solve the problem of determining a ship’s longitude (east-west position) at sea. For a maritime nation such as Britain, investment in long distance trade, outposts and settlements overseas made the ability to determine a ship’s longitude accurately increasingly important.
As different nations, including Spain, the Netherlands and France, sought to dominate the world’s oceans, each offered financial rewards for solving the longitude problem. But it was in Britain that the approach paid off. With life-changing sums of money on offer, the challenge became the talk of London’s eighteenth-century coffee-houses and captured the imaginations and talents of astronomers, skilled artisans, politicians, seamen and satirists; many of whom came up with ingenious methods and instruments designed to scoop the Board of Longitude’s tantalising rewards and transform seafaring navigation forever.
Follow the quest to solve the world’s biggest challenge and the battle to win the £20,000 prize. Explore the rivalries and ingenious inventions of some of the greatest minds of the 17th and 18th centuries including Galileo, Isaac Newton, Captain Cook and John Harrison. Centuries later, the science they developed still influences critical areas of modern life, from satnav and mobile phones to international time zones.
Exhibition highlights include all five of John Harrison’s famous timekeepers. H1, H2, H3 and H4 will move from the Royal Observatory Greenwich to be displayed in the National Maritime Museum for the first time in nearly 30 years. H5 is being loaned from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. Also featured is the original Longitude Act of 1714, which has never been on public display before; an intricate 1747 model of the Centurion, the ship which carried out the first proper sea trial of Harrison’s H1, and the elegant, padded silk ‘observing suit’ worn by Nevil Maskelyne at the Royal Observatory during the 1760s.
Tickets and opening hours
There are several ways to book your tickets for the exhibition:
- You can book tickets online
- By phone: +44 (0)20 8858 4422
The museum is open Daily from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and on Thursdays the museum stays open til 8.00 pm. For more information visit: http://www.rmg.co.uk/